Ozzie Melendez, the band's musical director (producer, arranger, composer of the newly released CD entitled “Everybody Get Down) and trombone player approached the band's former tenor sax player Alex Stewart with the idea of a band that could genuinely duplicate the sounds of Earth Wind and Fire and Tower of Power. They presented the idea to drummer Lee Finkelstein and bassist Rich Ebler of the Jim Pin Band. As it turned out, Lee and Rich had visions of the same band for years. An immediate alliance was formed. “I was so excited,” recounts Ozzie, “that I went home, and the very next day started transcribing six of my favorite Tower of Power tunes.
When Gary Smith, of The Brokerage Pub and long time pillar of Long Island's live music scene heard the line up of this band, he booked them sight unseen, without a demo tape. Many of Funk's members had performed regularly at The Brokerage and Gary knew the caliber of musicians he was dealing with.
Funk Philharmonia (as they were originally called) first gig was on November 21st 1985. Since that first gig, there have been surprisingly few changes in the band's line up, especially for a group of this size.
Funk Filharmonik's big, fat, fiery horn sound and chunky rhythmic vibe has become a magnet for musicians and music lovers of all stripes, from jazz hipsters to rockin' bikers, from students to teachers, youngsters to oldsters, fans of jazz, funk, soul, R & B, listeners, dancers, to some of the most well know musicians in the NY Metropolitan area.
Funk Filharmonik has influenced many other local bands and fueled the resurgence of horn bands on L.I. Their performances have become a local hang for so many players. One never knows who is in the audience and might come up to sit in with the band, particularly when they gig in Manhattan. The band does, after all, feature some of Long Island's hottest and most in demand players. Collectively, they've recorded and continue to perform with the icons of popular music, including Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder, Tower of Power, Diana Ross, Janet Jackson, Blues Brothers, Aretha Franklin, John Mayer, Bootsy Collins, Steve Cropper, Shaggy, the Winans, Mariah Carey, The Allman Brothers, John Oates, Eddie Floyd, Huey Lewis, Michael Bolton, Queen Latifah, and so many more.
Some of Funk Fil’s members have also played and recorded and continue to play with jazz and Latin giants including Tito Puente, Willie Colon, Freddie Hubbard, Jonathan Butler, Marc Anthony, Lionel Hampton, Jennifer Lopez, the Brecker Brothers, and a list that goes on and on. Their talents have added to countless TV and Broadway shows, and commercial jingles. At any given moment, these guys might be off performing as a band, as a horn section, or individual players in the far corners of the world playing in such diverse settings as presidential inaugurations, midnight sun concerts in Sweden's Arctic Circle, or spiritual drum and dance ceremonies of Ghana, West Africa. Funk Filharmonik also prides itself in the many benefits they and their loyal following of funksters have supported for humanitarian and environmental causes.